Review: Various, Another Day, Another Time: Celebrating the Music of Inside Llewyn Davis

Inside Llewyn Davis

I think when the producers of Another Day, Another Time: Celebrating the Music of Inside Llewyn Davis decided to put the concert, and subsequent documentary and record, together they were expecting to capture lightning in a bottle, the same way the O Brother Where Art Thou? concert Down from the Mountain had done over ten years previously. And they had every right to as all the elements were there: a Coen Brothers film jam-packed with T Bone Burnett produced folk music, performances from some of contemporary folk and acoustic music’s biggest names and a reference point to a music, time and place that is beloved by millions.

But somehow they didn’t quite hit the mark.

Not to say this isn’t a great album – it certainly is. There are a lot of highlights throughout. But it’s not the kind of album I can enjoy from start to finish, not the way I can with Down from the Mountain or even the Inside Llewyn Davis soundtrack (the intentionally terrible “Please Mr. Kennedy” aside). And I think it’s for a number of reasons.

Firstly there’s too much Americana and Bluegrass music. I never thought I’d hear myself say that but it’s true. So much of the Greenwich Village folk revival was centred around traditional music from England, Scotland and Ireland and while bluegrass and country music was a part of the scene (and no doubt influenced many of the singers and songwriters of the time) it wasn’t the focus – if anything blues was more of an influence at the time. The movie soundtrack itself only really has nods to this kind of music and instead focuses on traditional music plus traditionally inspired songs from the time like Ewan MacColl’s “The Shoals of Herring” or Brendan Behan’s “The Auld Triangle”, and I think the live album should have gone the same way.

Secondly it takes 10 songs before we even hear a track from the movie and even then it’s the aforementioned intentionally terrible “Please Mr. Kennedy”. Similarly there seems to be too many originals on the album – albeit from amazing artists like Punch Brothers, Gillian Welch, Jack White and more – to claim to be “Celebrating the Music of Inside Llewyn Davis”.

And finally there are some glaring misses in the programming of the concert. I love Conor Oberst to death but his inclusion here is misplaced – his waspish voice just doesn’t seem to fit with the tone of the concert. Similarly I’m not sure we needed three tracks from a ho-hum Avett Brothers when the brilliant Keb’ Mo’ only gets one.

But all of this aside there is a lot to like about Another Day, Another Time: Celebrating the Music of Inside Llewyn Davis. Having the Punch Brothers acting essentially as the house band on many of the tracks elevates so many of the songs. The second half of the album which showcases a lot more of the songs from the actual movie – “Hang Me, Oh Hang Me”. “Green, Green Rocky Road”, “The Auld Triangle”, “Fare Thee Well (Dink’s Song)”, etc – shows just how well these songs (and their singers) stack up live. Oscar Isaac, the actor who played Llewyn Davis in the film is surprisingly solid as is Marcus Mumford who is relegated to backing vocals and drums on a lot of the tracks but comes to fore in the final four songs to prove just how good a singer he is.

Once again Rhiannon Giddens is an absolute standout. Her version of the Gaelic “S iomadh rud tha dhith orm/Ciamar a ni mi ‘n dannsa direach” is the only track I just had to go back and listen to twice on my first time through the album, it was so good. And then of course there’s Joan Baez, proving exactly why she’s a legend, outclassing Elvis Costello on a duet of “Which Side Are You On?” and absolutely killing it on “House of the Rising Sun” and “Give Me Cornbread When I’m Hungry”.

I think my advice with this album is not to go in with any pre-conceptions – either from the O Brother Where Art Thou? and Inside Llewyn Davis or from Down from the Mountain. Instead listen to Another Day, Another Time: Celebrating the Music of Inside Llewyn Davis in isolation, pick and choose the individual tracks you want to buy (you’ll want more than you’ll leave behind) and enjoy the music as is sounds like the live audience did.

Another Day, Another Time: Celebrating the Music of Inside Llewyn Davis is available now on iTunes

Watch the New Video From The New Basement Tapes, “Liberty Street”

The New Basement Tapes
Image Courtesy of The New Basement Tapes

The latest single from The New Basement Tapes, made up of Elvis Costello, Rhiannon Giddens (Carolina Chocolate Drops), Taylor Goldsmith (Dawes), Jim James (My Morning Jacket) and Marcus Mumford (Mumford and Sons), is “Liberty Street” which has its own lyric video. The track is taken from the upcoming T Bone Burnett produced album Lost On The River: The New Basement Tapes which sees the band putting music to “lost” Bob Dylan lyrics from 1967. The album is due for release on the 6th November.

Check out the lyric video for “Liberty Street” below:

Details of the Inside Llewyn Davis Live Album

Inside Llewyn Davis

I’m going to admit right here that after all the hype I ended up feeling pretty “meh” about the Coen Brothers film Inside Llewyn Davis. I have a love-hate relationship with the Coen Brothers – I absolutely love their quirky comedies but their existential dramas can get lost on me, especially when their lead characters are unlikeable like the case was with Inside Llewyn Davis. So I was a little bit disappoted with the film, but the soundtrack I absolutely lobe.

To coincide with the release of the film last year the Coen Brothers and musical director T Bone Burnett held a benefit concert featuring music from the film, the 60s folk era and music along the same folk lines at the Town Hall in New York featuring music from the likes of Punch Brothers, Gillian Welch, Dave Rawlings Machine, The Milk Carton Kids, Secret Sisters, Lake Street Dive, Elvis Costello, Oscar Isaac, Conor Oberst, Colin Meloy, Joan Baez, The Avett Brothers, Jack White, Marcus Mumford and more.

The concert is now being released as a two disc live album titled Another Day, Another Time: Celebrating the Music of Inside Llewyn Davis and is due for release on the 13th January. The full tracklist for the album is below – can’t wait t have a listen to this one!

Disc 1:
1. Punch Brothers – Tumbling Tumbleweed
2. Punch Brothers – Rye Whiskey
3. Gillian Welch – Will the Circle Be Unbroken?
4. Gillian Welch & David Rawlings – The Way It Goes
5. Willie Watson – The Midnight Special
6. Dave Rawlings Machine – I Hear Them All/This Land Is Your Land
7. The Milk Carton Kids – New York
8. Secret Sisters – Tomorrow Will Be Kinder
9. Lake Street Dive – You Go Down Smooth
10. Elvis Costello, Oscar Isaac and Adam Driver – Please Mr. Kennedy
11. Conor Oberst – Four Strong Winds
12. Conor Oberst – Man Named Truth
13. Colin Meloy – Blues Run the Game
14. Joan Baez, Colin Meloy, and Gillian Welch – Joe Hill
15. The Avett Brothers – All My Mistakes
16. The Avett Brothers – That’s How I Got to Memphis
17. The Avett Brothers – Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise

Disc 2:
1. Jack White – Mama’s Angel Child
2. Jack White – Did You Hear John Hurt?
3. Jack White – We’re Going to Be Friends
4. Rhiannon Giddens – Waterboy
5. Rhiannon Giddens – ‘S iomadh rud tha dhith orm/Ciamar a ni mi ‘n dannsa direach
6. Oscar Isaac – Hang Me, Oh Hang Me
7. Oscar Isaac – Green, Green Rocky Road
8. Keb’ Mo’ – Tomorrow Is a Long Time
9. Bob Neuwirth – Rock Salt and Nails
10. Chris Thile, Chris Eldridge, Paul Kowert, Marcus Mumford, Noam Pikelny and Gabe Witcher – The Auld Triangle
11. Gillian Welch, Rhiannon Giddens and Carey Mulligan – Didn’t Leave Nobody But the Baby
12. Elvis Costello and Joan Baez – Which Side Are You On?
13. Joan Baez – House of the Rising Sun
14. Marcus Mumford and Joan Baez – Give Me Cornbread When I’m Hungry
15. Marcus Mumford- I Was Young When I Left Home
16. Oscar Isaac and Marcus Mumford – Fare Thee Well (Dink’s Song)
17. Marcus Mumford and the Punch Brothers – Farewell

Listen to Four Tracks From Lost On The River: The New Basement Tapes

The New Basement Tapes
Image Courtesy of The New Basement Tapes

Lost On The River: The New Basement Tapes is the upcoming album that brings together a treasure trove of recently discovered lyrics handwritten by Bob Dylan in 1967 with icons of modern folk, roots and popular music Elvis Costello, Rhiannon Giddens (Carolina Chocolate Drops), Taylor Goldsmith (Dawes), Jim James (My Morning Jacket) and Marcus Mumford (Mumford and Sons).

The group, billed as The New Basement Tapes, came together this March to put 26-year old Dylan’s words to music for the project, all produced by the legendary T Bone Burnett. The result, Lost On The River: The New Basement Tapes, is due for release on the 6th November. Check out the track listing here:

1. Down On The Bottom
2. Married To My Hack
3. Kansas City
4. Spanish Mary
5. Liberty Street
6. Nothing To It
7. Golden Tom – Silver Judas
8. When I Get My Hands On You
9. Duncan and Jimmy
10. Florida Key
11. Hidee Hidee Ho #11
12. Lost On The River #12
13. Stranger
14. Card Shark
15. Quick Like A Flash
16. Hidee Hidee Ho #16
17. Diamond Ring
18. The Whistle Is Blowing
19. Six Months In Kansas City (Liberty Street)
20. Lost On The River #20

So far four of the tracks have been revealed form the album in the form of lyric videos and we thought we’d collect them here for your easy viewing pleasure. Take a listen to “Nothing To It”, “Married To My Hack”, “When I Get My Hands On You” and “Spanish Mary” below and tell us what you think:

Bluesfest Announces Third Lineup Additions for 2014

Image Courtesy of Passenger

The festival announcements keep rolling in with Bluesfest the latest to reveal additions to its lineup. Joining the likes of John Mayer, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros and Iron and Wine come the likes of Jack Johnson, Elvis Costello, Passenger (above), Kasey Chambers and a bunch more.

Bluesfest will be held just north of Byron Bay from the 17th to the 21st of April 2014. Tickets to the festival are already on sale via the official site.

The full list of artists for the third Bluesfest announcement is below:

Jack Johnson, Elvis Costello & The Imposters, Passenger, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, Kasey Chambers, Clairy Browne & The Bangin’ Rackettes, Trixie Whitley, The Soul Rebels, RocKwiz Live

Guide to Summer Festivals Part 2: Look the Part

Photo courtesy of Bon Iver

Ok, ok, secretly, I’ve been dying to do a folky fashion story, and what better time than in preparation to hit up the festivals? It all started because of Timber and Steel’s own Evan Hughes who is rarely seen at any folk influenced festival or gig without a vest on. Wandering the roads of Woodford last year, I noticed some particular elements that identified musically like minded people. So let’s go top to toe on how to look your folky best during the festival season.

Bob Dylan Lanie Lane

I’ve spent the last few days looking at photos of some of our favorite Timber and Steel artists to really pin down the look, and to be honest, most of it is about choosing a base and accessorising. Obviously there is always going to be an element of your own tastes and flair or style that will determine your overall look, but here’s a few simpler pieces you can pull together possibly from your Christmas haul and Boxing Day sales if you want to get in the folky spirit of it.

John Butler and Mama Kin

For they guys, the base is easy, jeans and a t-shirt are staples with the shirt usually being plain, though wearing your favorite band shirt will always be acceptable. For the ladies, unsurprisingly the base has followed the recent retro/ vintage fashion trend and more often than not either a floating vintage style dress or a modern floral dress inspired by the retro look. Whack a pair of opaque stockings on underneath and you’re set. That or a high waisted skirts or shorts with a plain top would provide a perfectly suitable base too.

Kate Miller-Heidke at Bluesfest Skipping Girl Vinegar at Snowy Mountains Of Music Festival April Maze Snowy Mountains Of Music Festival

Then it’s time to accessorise. Let’s start at the top.

Hats are great, they protect you from the sun and the rain, keep your head warm at night and can cap off your look, excuse the pun. Broad brim hats are an easy choice for guys or girls, just take a look at Matt Corby and Florence Welsch of Florence and the Machine or even Jack Thompson in his Akubra for inspiration.
  Jack Thompson at Bluesfest

For guys, there’s a broad range of hat style to try until you find the one that suits you, Panama, Trilby and Fedora styles mainly differ in the brim size and shape. The ever popular Flat Cap has a cousin, the Ascot Cap of a very similar style, but rounder and more stiff. Or in a similar but roomier style, there’s always your classic variations of the Gatsby/ newsboy/ train driver cap which work for both guys and girls.

Eric Bibb at Bluesfest  Jeff Lang

For the girls, while you could pick any of the styles I’ve noted for guys, the more vintage looks are far more fun. For a very feminine look, try a cloche like Lisa Mitchell, a 50s style do-rag like Lanie Lane, or just a simple headband as Julia Stone often wears.

Lisa Mitchell Lanie Lane Julia Stone

Elvis Costello at Bluesfest If guys are after a very vintage addition, there’s always bowler and top hats, but it takes a bit of confidence and dedication to carry it off well. A bit zany, but a great look if you own it. And if you are going to own it, you can even go the whole hog with a three piece suit, but that’s not really convenient for Australian summers nor festivals.

CW StonekingWorking down for top to toe, the next item is mainly for the guys. If you’re going for an old style, the a bow tie is a fantastic edition, especially if you can tie a real one yourself rather than the clip on ones. Though I have it on good authority, they’re not terribly comfortable to start with. Not really practical for camping and festivals, it’s a good one to wear out for a night on the town, or as a feature of your look, much like CW Stoneking’s red and white check bow tie on his signature white ensemble.

If ties are not your style, then your options include the quintessential vest, in almost any material, but I know Evan Hughes likes his leather and suede options. Vest have been turning up across genres for years and are a feature for musos and punters both young and old.

Josh Pyke  Cat Empire at Bluesfest Snowdroppers at Bluesfest

If a vest is too warm or not quite your thing, try out the old school suspenders as Johnny Wishbone, lead singer of The Snowdroppers, is frequently seen wearing. Our modern ladies of folk have a true eye for style throwing cardigans and sweaters in to the mix, or using leather belts to create a classic cinched or high waist look.

Snowdroppers at Bluesfest Florence Welsch Secret Sisters at Bluesfest

Boy and BearWhile vintage is a strong theme, the folk style transcends conventional fashion rules, and borrows often from cousins in country genre. Take a leaf out of Henry Wagons’ book and style up every day with country flair. If you think I’m cheating by using alt-country as a folk example, instead take a good look at Boy & Bear who have had multiple members sport checkered shirts, plus a few other folkies teaming a checked shirt with a vest or other accessory. And it’s not just for guys, take a look at how Lisa Mitchell and Jen Cloher carry off bold checks for a country, folky feel.

Henry Wagons at Rhythms Magazine Q&A at Bluesfest Lisa Mitchell Jen Cloher

So, once you’ve got your base, found the accessories that work for you, all that’s left is to throw on some sunnies (Rayban style is a staple) and for the ladies, grab a leather or leather/ animal print look small handbag to sling across your body, slap on some sunscreen and you’re set for a folkin’ good time.

Bob Dylan Florence Welsch Julia and Angus Stone

Once you’ve got the hang of it, you can start to mix and match pieces, create layers and get a group of friends together and take the scene by storm. Maybe some time down the track you’ll even turn up in a future folky fashion post right here!

Mumford and Sons at Laneway Festival SydneyMumford and Sons at Laneway Festival – I love the Panama hat, t-shirt, vest and overalls as shorts combination!

The Good Ship at WoodfordOh the combinations from The Good Ship! Loving the Fedora, bowtie and vest, plus a small gatsby and one out there shirt!

The Gum Ball 2011These two from the crowd at The Gum Ball look great!

TinPan Orange

TinPan Orange combined managed almost the entire shebang, get that group some hats!

Bumper Bluesfest Review: Part II

Bluesfest Trees
Photos by KT Bell

THIS IS IT!! Finally… part two of the Bumper Bluesfest Review.

Of course, it was totally planned this way. Just in time (ahem) for the news that Bluesfest are extending the deadline for Pre-Earlybird tickets for the 2012 festival! As they say, there’s no better time than now!

Anyway, more about the 2012 festival at the end.

A quick re-cap… so far, since Part I, we are half way through the marathon 6 day festival, having had the pleasure of watching Ben Harper, CW Stoneking, Eric Bibb, Ernest Ranglin, Fistful of Mercy, Funky Meters, Imogen Heap, Leah Flanagan… (DEEP BREATH)… Mavis Staples, Michael Franti, Mick McHugh, Ray Beadle, Rodrigo y Gabriela, Ruthie Foster, aaaaand Trombone Shorty!

Let us continue…

Secret Sisters

Having heard about the Secret Sisters several times leading up to the festival, I was keen to see what all the talk was about. One song into the set, the young duo from Alabama, who are indeed sisters, had turned me into an instant fan. With their beautiful southern harmonies, and country/gospel charm, they would not be out of place on the O Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack. That distinct accent, and being just so gosh darn nice, had the audience smiling, swaying and hanging on to every swell word. Stories of home, family, food, and tradition interlaced their set of authentically old styled originals and covers, including a beautiful rendition of Hank WilliamsYour Cheatin’ Heart. The sisters captured the hearts of Bluesfest, and it seems Australia had a good impression on them too, so this will certainly not be the last we see of them. (Check out KT Bell’s great interview with the girls during the festival)

From soft and sweet, to evocative and tribal, Canadian-Indian songwriter and performer Buffy Sainte-Marie was about to take the fans and new comers on a journey through her Cree heritage, her career as a songwriter, and her passion for social justice. Not knowing far beyond the classics Up Where We Belong, and Universal Soldier, my expectations were wide open, and what I experienced was an education! Musically, culturally, politically. There are two sounds that Buffy excels at… the softly spoken folk singer, and the passionate warrior singing from the voices of her ancestors. Her unconventional vocal style for those ‘heavier’ songs may shock, but you soon realise that this is the sound of a people, as well as one woman, and her experiences. The warrior came out in full force for her epic closing song, Star Walker, that features the folk singer meeting head on with a barrage of Cree chanting, and rock guitars. I’d have to agree with other responses to her set that there was a certain something that came over the crowd. An immense respect for a legend, and understanding of the social and cultural messages she was offering.

The time was drawing near. With one set to go, the artist who had inspired, transformed, and near turn upside down Bluesfest 2011 was not far away. Droves of fans had been gathered, saving their places, sitting tight in anticipation for Bob Dylan to hit the stage. Blessed with an almost capacity Mojo stage crowd, Warren Haynes took the stage, playing as what could be described as the ‘warm up’ for Bob Dylan. But any notion of Haynes as a support act soon drifted, as he launched into his set of guitar driven, rock heavy blues without hesitation. It became apparent that a significant number of people in this crowd weren’t just here for Dylan, and did indeed know of Haynes and his projects (Gov’t Mule, The Allman Brothers, and The Dead (featuring members of The Grateful Dead), and were keen to catch his return to Bluesfest for 2011.
Regardless of notoriety, everyone had the opportunity to see Haynes in full swing, in no way slowing down or sitting comfortably in his fortunately positioned set, proving to this evening’s mixed crowd why he is one of the quintessential Bluesfest artists, who in turn showed due respect.

Now the time had come. With much patience, aching leg, and sore behind, the hunger of hundreds of expectant fans  was about to be quenched. Bob Dylan was in the house.
Now, most readers of Timber & Steel should be familiar with the reaction of fans and first time viewers of Dylan’s current live show. The figurehead of classic politically charged folk music does indeed keep to himself off stage, and through the entirety of his performances. It’s not that it appears he’s not enjoying himself. In fact, I caught him tapping, and rocking in time to the music, and releasing the occasional grin from behind the keyboard at various stages. And despite Dylan’s questionable degree of physical contribution to the content of the performance, there was no denying that there was a performance taking place. And whether or not that performance had much of a resemblance to the Dylan records that many of those present had been listening to for years, nay, decades, there were songs being played that had a rhythm and melody, and were unmistakably, by definition, songs. So, what’s all of the fuss about? I try to be optimistic about anything I see live, and being the second time I had seen ‘21st century Bob’, there were no surprises. This was Bob as he is today.
Regarding a television interview I recently watched of him interviewed for American 60 Minutes, recalling Dylan’s set, it seemed evident that Bob certainly has surrendered to the thought that his golden era of song writing from the 60s was ‘magic’, and that he had lost said magic, just cruising along on his fictional Never Ending Tour. While this era of Bob Dylan may be the vehicle on which he departs this world, it may turn out to be one of the highlights of his career. Where in the 80s there was a lull, this modern Bob could possibly, in his twilight years, be forging a new path for songwriters to come. Though lacking the ‘magic’, this craft may go on to evolve into a fresh guise of the ‘new folk’ scene. Bob has reinvented himself. Some would say he’s devolved, but what we are witnessing may prove to be the sound and model that lays the way for folk to come. It cannot be denied that Dylan is a hard working man, and in this age rock stars and idols, the role of ‘legend’ is being down played, and in fact, one of the most influential, prominent artists still alive, recording, and performing today has not changed that much at all. Still bucking the trend, retreating from what is expected, and not giving his followers too much of what they demand.

Jethro Tull

After seeing Dylan, Jethro Tull’s set was a vast contrast. A sea of Tull fans of all ages were out in force and eager to catch one of the more animated acts on this year’s festival lineup. Choosing to stand at the rear of the tent, I took in the entire magnificent spectacle unfolding before me. To my left, middle aged devotees who had most likely seen ‘the Tull’ countless times since the sixties and seventies. To my right, a gang of twenty-something ‘kids’ who had possibly been exposed over the years via their parent’s record collections. As for the band, they were strikingly tight, and Ian Anderson’s on-stage reputation was in full swing! With trademark theatrical presence, and over the top facial expressions, he leaped across the stage, flute in hand, as if barely a year had gone by. It appears the band and fans alike have tapped into some kind of musical fountain of youth.
The set included several of their epic hits such as Thick as a Brick and Aqualung, and venturing into classical territory with their rendition of Bach’s Bouree. Fans got what they came for, and when left chanting for more, the Tull delivered, returning for an encore that left droves of middle aged Tull fans satisfied, shaking their heads in awe. As for me, it was an opportunity to see one of the greats, and I now understand what, indeed, makes a Tull fan.

Elvis Costello

Whilst some ‘blues’ and ‘roots’ puritans are still questioning the validity of some artists being on the bill, the rest of us are getting on with loving the huge array of music on offer at Bluesfest, and Elvis Costello is one of those artists that few other festivals in the country would even attempt to book. On his last visit to Australia in 2006, the man graced the halls of the Sydney Opera House with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. Five years later, the harbour and porcelain sails have been replaced by trees, canvas, and the wild weather of the Northern Rivers, with a much different show in tow. This is Costello in festival mode, with his full live band The Imposters, and a swag of hits and special surprises ready ready for fans, and the new alike. Including Pump It Up, Watching The Detectives,  Either Side Of The Same Town, Shipbuilding, Good Year For The Roses, and (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace Love & Understanding, just to name a few, there was never going to be enough time to do the man’s eclectic catalogue justice. The ‘secret’ ingredient was a song with special guests the Secret Sisters, who are no strangers to an Elvis Costello stage, having been guests on several other shows and tours throughout the States. He even suggested that he’d like to bring one of them out here at some stage. Here’s hoping!

Exiting the festival on the penultimate evening, I managed to catch the closing songs of Mad Bastards. Taking their name from the film for which tonight’s music was written, the collaboration of Alex Lloyd and the Pigram Brothers surprisingly makes quite the fitting trio. Lloyd‘s often melancholy tones, coupled with the indigenous folk of the Pigram Brothers suits the damp, cooling midnight air, filled with smoke from a nearby food stall. The music seems quite reflective of the Kimberly area where Lloyd, Alan and Stephen Pigram wrote these songs, and the remote rural indigenous community where the film is set. Though Alex Lloyd’s commercial success has been varied in recent times, he is an artist who has continued to produce music, despite what the media or critics say. A soundtrack collaboration is a welcome change for the otherwise ‘pop’ artist, and on this night, taking more of a bIues approach, I witnessed the end of a beautiful set from three artists creating a unique new sound in the Australian musical landscape.

Entering a well soaked Tea Tree Farm for the last time this festival, I was just starting to get used to gumboots, gravel, and a staple diet of Mayan coffee and Byron Bay Donuts. Via a few repeat performances, I made my way to see another regular to Bluesfest, Paul Kelly, who so naturally fit in to the final day’s proceedings. Whilst the bill was full of long lost legends, international guests, and festival new comers, there was no need for fanfare or hype. Whether nestled within the big top, or gathered beyond the cover of the canvas to the Mojo’s outdoor screen, the crowd was ready to spend some quality time with one of Australia’s greatest singer/songwriters, in what was feeling like the biggest back yard gig ever! Kelly was joined on stage by the equally legendary Vika and Linda Bull, who not only provided backing vocals, but also presented their own takes on a selection of Kelly’s songs. Driving through his hits, including Dumb Things, Before Too Long, and Deeper Water, this was a more focused Kelly that I’d previously seen, working hard (and succeeding!) to fit as much as possible into the time given. Towards the end of the set I went for an urgent pit stop, and on the way, down one of those ‘authorised personnel only’ roads, I witnessed one of those perfect little festival moments. Several festival workers, volunteers, officials, and security folks on a break, huddled together, utilising a few up turned road cases, and various parts of a ute, to gain a vantage point over the barrier fence, fixated on Kelly and co. as he closed with How To Make Gravy. One of those special, simple moments that was so fitting for an artist like Paul Kelly.  I’m glad I went for that walk.


I last saw Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupyngu, now performing under the name Gurrumul, at the Peats Ridge festival in 2008. Two years later, and a new album released, Gurrumul‘s profile has grown, as has his repertoire. But there has been no change to his soft, yet powerful sound. Though, this Bluesfest we are seeing two sides of Gurrumul, both solo, and as a member of the Saltwater Band, a vast contrast to his usual ethereal indigenous vocal performance. Watching the Saltwater Band helped me appreciate the sound of Gurrumul more, having seen a more expressive and musically playful side to this notoriously shy, softly spoken (if speaking at all) artist. When he shifts into solo mode, the beats and dancing are traded for respectful, and awe filled silence, but tonight we still see some of the playful side of Gurrumul, giggling at one point over some private, on stage comment. His audience, whilst sympathetic to his blindness, seem entranced by his musical talent, and respond with cheers and much deserved applause. Whilst we often crave some form of acknowledgement of, or engagement with the audience from the artist, here there is simply a man sharing his songs, showing his strengths, with what he lacks almost forgotten.

Next stop, Michelle Shocked… an artist that I had previously heard a lot about, but had missed at every opportunity. Then, as the final night of Bluesfest was wrapping up, I had the fortune of witnessing a great performance from a truly talented, charismatic artist. Complying to song requests shouted from her obviously dedicated fan base, the enthusiasm of her followers was addictive. An all smiling, positive singer, songwriter, and storyteller, with a tale or two for every song. It is clear that she has seen and experienced a lot in her 20-plus years in the business, but her outlook is optimistic, her stage show energetic, and I will not let another festival featuring Michelle Shocked go by without seeing her again. I may even attempt to delve into her extensive, almost 15 album strong back catalogue!

George Clinton

Not being able to pull ourselves away from Michelle Shocked, we arrived almost one hour into the set at the Jambalaya tent for the man who has been credited with inspiring 4 decades of psychedelic, funk driven urban music world wide, George Clinton and the P-Funk Allstars! At first glance, it appeared that George Clinton had yet to grace the stage with his presence, then from right of stage, a camouflage-clad Clinton (sans rainbow hair) limped onto the stage, walking stick in hand. I had previously thought that Clinton was showing a little more than his mid-60s age when I saw him perform back in 2005, so the walking stick was no surprise. He then proceeded to discard the walking stick, and take charge of the stage, and the ten-plus strong P-Funk Allstars. This man demanded a crowd, but on this night, it seemed Bob Dylan and Grace Jones had robbed him of numbers. Six days of festival is a long time for many, and given the chance, Clinton and crew would party into the wee hours of the morning, but the vibe was just aching for more. Perhaps I was hoping a little too much for a 70s funk revival, with few remaining members still touring with Clinton. Maybe it was the lack of keyboardist Bernie Worrell on this tour? Or maybe a large chunk of funk was lost with the sad recent death of original P-Funk member Gary ‘Diaperman’ Shider? The band seemed young, and occasionally hesitant to meet the level of ‘freak’ and ‘funk’ that Clinton or his fans would demand. Fortunately, the mood switched as the band eventually moved into their hits One Nation Under a Groove, Give Up The Funk (Tear The Roof Off The Sucker), Flash Light, Maggot Brain, P-Funk (Wants to Get Funked Up), Atomic Dog, Up for the Down Stroke, and Aqua Boogie. A sample of a legendary band, that left a fanatical horde against the barrier as the lights went up, chanting the native call “Ain’t no party like a P-Funk party, Cause the P-Funk party don’t stop!” Sadly, for now, it has.

Bluesfest Violin

And that was it for another Bluesfest, which overall was, by no exaggeration, the best I had experienced. With five under my belt, the question comes: How about a sixth?

The dates are set: Thurs 5th – Mon 9th April, 2011. And if, like me, you’re contemplating returning to Bluesfest in 2012, now is THE time to make up your mind, with Pre-Earlybird tickets available at crazy prices. I know I want to. So should you. Seriously, I’m not kidding.

See you in 2012!

Bluesfest Interview: Kim Churchill

Kim Churchill on the Woodford Stage, photo and interview by KT Bell

Here at Timber and Steel, we’ve developed a bit of a crush on Kim Churchill and we’re always keen to see what’s next on his agenda. Since we caught him side of stage at Woodford, he’s flitted through the US and Europe, so we couldn’t resit the opportunity to catch up with him properly after his Bluesfest sets.

KT Bell: I’m sitting here, drinking Scotch with Kim Churchill, because that’s what you do on the last day of Bluesfest!
Kim Churchill: That is! The interview’s started well. [laughs]

KT: The last time we saw you was side of stage at Woodford and you were about to disappear off to Peats Ridge.
KC: Oh yes!
KT:You were doing that crazy 2 festivals in 2 days thing. And you’ve done 2 shows here at Bluesfest, how have they been?
KC: I guess probably what every artist would say after playing a set at Bluesfest is they’ve been amazing and that is kind of the only thing that a show at Bluesfest can be. It’s one of those festivals that has created over the course of 22 years or however long long they’ve been running, similar to Woodford, they’re the gigs you live for as a musician, they’re the ones that you play all the other shit gigs, not that there’s many shit gigs, but you work through whatever tough times we have, be them small tough times or large tough times, you work through those to get to the sets at Bluesfest and stuff like that.
KT: I’m glad you had lots of adoring fans to see you and the Mojo Stage must have been great.
KC: I don’t know if they were my adoring fans, but I stole a few off Dylan.

KT: Excellent! Now, you’re just back from touring overseas, Europe and America, how was all of that?
KC: Intense! For me, the transition between being an adolescent living out of the back of a van, busking and doing small pub gigs, the transition came a lot quicker than I thought it would. All of a sudden, we’re living out of hotel rooms and planes and the whole thing was pretty intense to be honest. I don’t look back on it with complete happiness and lovely nostalgic feelings, it was hard work. But, an amazing experience, one of the most amazing I ever had and we’ll be touring Canada and America and Europe for the rest of this year, so it’ll be a chance for me to find my comfort over there more than anything. Because, to this point, I’ve sort of, especially with no surf, it bloody hurts. Like, we got to LA and had a couple of days where the booking agent, he said we were gonna go surfing and it rained, and if it rains in LA, all the poo and crap comes out of the rivers and you can’t surf in the water because it’s too dirty. So we just had to watch these perfect waves breaking off Venice Beach boarwalk. But anyway, I mean, I’ve hardly got anything to complain about.

KT: You played South by SouthWest (SxSW), how was that?
KC: Yeah, no surf there! Kind of in general, I think ridiculously overwhelming to the point where I have very little to say about the whole experience [laughs].
KT: Lot’s of gigs in a few days?
KC: Oh yeah, the gigs, SxSW is, every gig is amazing. The whole vibe of the festival is kind of like “Who are we going to find? What are we going to stumble across?” So as an artist, who, your biggest goal is to be that person that somebody stumbles across. It’s a nice situation to be in because you’re kind of handed everything on a plate, and all you have to do is deliver and then there’s always going to be a couple of thousand people that are going to wander past your set wherever it might be and they will either stop and be intrigued or continue walking. So, in that sense, it was kind of easy, and fun for that reason. I would say playing a wedding 2 years ago was a lot harder. SxSW, at the end of the day, it was a lot of fun, I certainly wouldn’t tell anybody to go there to be ‘discovered’ because there’s 120,000 people and maybe 5,000 are good for doing something in terms of helping you break America and the odds are that they’re probably doing something terribly wrong on the 20th floor of a hotel at any given time. [laughs] But it’s a festival at the end of the day, so you see a lot of amazing bands and you have great gigs.

KT: How does the music and festival scene overseas differ or compare to Australia?
KC: It’s larger, definitely larger. It’s more intense, kind of you have to, I find with festivals in Australia, it’s quite easy to wake up early in the morning and go for a surf and have a bacon and egg roll at the surf club and there’s that kind of relaxed element that only Australia offers. Whereas, overseas, bam! 9 o’clock starts and there’s interviews and there’s breakfast and there’s coffee with this person and you’re in the middle of this city and there’s thousands of people watching shows and you’re watching shows with them. The whole thing is just more intense. At the same token, you get that kick from it, being at those kinds of festivals, you sort of get the kick out of masses of people and the animosity of the whole event. But I feel a lot less at home, naturally.

Kim Churchill on the Mojo Stage big screen at Bluesfest.
Photo Courtesy of Tao Jones

KT: So have you been writing much while you’ve been on the road, or have you just been too busy playing?
KC: No, the more busy I am, for some reason the more I write! As soon as I stop, and I have time to write songs, I can’t f*cking write one! [laughs] It’s a pain in the arse. So, say when we were touring in Europe, it was one of the most thick, dense periods of songwriting I’ve ever had. I feel like there’s so much new stuff to write and record now that I’m a bit lost as to where to go in the future with my music. I’ve been writing a lot of very heavy  stuff on electric guitar and stuff that would probably suit a band, and then lot’s of calm and pretty folk stuff that’s finger-picking on acoustic guitar, and then everything in between. So, writing a ridiculous amount of music and now just kind of trying to process how to find the best stuff from that and create an album that isn’t half a heavy metal album and half a folk album [laughs], something in between.
KT: So, Folk Metal?
KC: Folk Metal! Yeah!
KT: Kim Churchill shall master Folk Metal.
KC: [laughs] I like Folk Metal!

KT: When we spoke at Woodford, you said that you were on track for recording later this year, is that still  on the cards or is it pushed back a bit?
KC: Oh no, it’s been happening, we’re just waiting to pull the right things out. We did quite a bit of recording at Sun Records in Memphis, which was amazing! We got to record though the mike that Elvis sung through for the first time. And, that was amazing. We’ve recorded quite a bit in Byron and we recorded  in Canada as well. Just waiting to grab the songs in the right way I guess. It’s been quite a complicated process and it’s taken longer than I thought it would, to reach something that I want to release. Probably now there’s about twenty songs that we could release and we could put two albums out or two singles and an album, or two EPs and an album or something. But, it’s not right yet.  So, recording will continue until the stage where it’s right enough.

KT: At Timber and Steel, as you know, we spotlight artists who we see are coming up and we think we should support.
KC: You do an amazing job too, I’ve got the mailing list.
KT: Thank you. And we try and cover as much of the Australian scene as we can and I actually interviewed Ash Grunwald earlier this weekend and asked him one of the things we ask a lot of established artists, which is who to watch out for and who is coming through on the scene who we should follow, and he said instantly, without batting an eyelid, Kim Churchill.
KC: [laughs] He’s a legend
KT: And he did tell me that you toured with him, you supported him a few years ago
KC: Yeah man! you know what, I actually , I pushed that guy and he proved himself as an amazingly nice person. I was 18 or something and that was when I was trying to get a gig, at a wedding, busking at market, you know, whatever! And, I saw he was playing this venue about half an hour away that some acts used to tour through, and he could pull a big crowd there, sort of five or six hundred people. I begged him, I found his number personally, Ash Grunwald’s number and I called him and I said “please let me play’. And he did, and I’ve had the utmost respect for that guy since then, he’s an amazing person, so I’m quite honoured to be the person that he mentioned.
KT: He just had such great things to say about you, so I wanted to make sure you heard that one from me!
KC: Oh, good on him! Man, I saw a bunch of his music on a Hollywood movie, the other day.
KT: Yeah, he was saying, Limitless.
KC: Yeah, the amount of work that guy has done, and the element of old blues  he brings in to a very new sort of rock music style, he deserves everything he gets. He blows my mind, that guy.

KT: He’s one of the legends here this weekend, and you jumped up with Micahel Franti on Thursday, because you’ve been touring with Michael Franti, which must be amazing.
KC: It has been amazing!
KT: Jaunting back to Sydney in the middle of the weekend for gigs with him, that must have been a bit mind blowing. So with all these legends in Bluesfest, are there any musicians that you haven’t played with yet and you have an absolute burning desire to meet, play with, jam with, any of that?
KC: Oh man, there are so many names that I would want to say, and the first names I would want to say, this Bluesfest has given me the opportunity to see some of my favourite acts from previous tours and stuff, the Hussy Hicks, A French Butler Called Smith, The Mojo Bluesmen, Transvaal Diamond Syndicate, all those acts, they’re the acts you see at festivals all the time and you go “they should be playing the big festivals, they should be doing the big stages”, and that’s what Peter Noble [Bluesfest’s Creative Director] I think has nailed, as he gets everything from them to Dylan to Elvis Costello, to BB King to Wolfmother! Like, he gets it all. The act that I would most like to write, record, meet, everything with is Dylan, and it always will be, so that is my answer to the question is, Bob Dylan. Whether that will ever happen is something that we will wait to find out about and we shall see.

KT: Like I said, we ask who to listen too and people have said you, so I’m asking you who to listen to, who we should check out.
KC: Alright, at this festival, everybody should go check out Mavis Staples, she is brilliant, she blew my mind, Trombone Shorty, in the Australian scene, the Hussy Hicks, A French Butler Called Smith and the busking comp winner Minnie Marks, she plays guitar like nothing I’ve ever seen before, she sings like Janis Joplin, she’s 17 and she’s going to blow the world apart.

KT: Thank you so much for your time Kim, pleasure again, see you again soon. Thanks for the Scotch!
KC: Thank you, cheers. Oh, you’re welcome!

Bluesfest Interview: The Secret Sisters

Bluesfest Monday
Photo and interview by KT Bell

Today marks the first gig of The Secret Sisters‘ summer tour according to their Facebook Page and they’re a little nervous,not that they have any reason to be. The Secret Sisters have experienced a groundswell of support in Australia after appearing on the ABCs Adam Hills in Gordon Street Tonight in the lead up to their Bluesfest appearance. We managed to catch up with the Alabama born sisters, Laura and Lydia Rogers, to find out about their stunning musical style and how they found their time in Australia.

KT Bell: How are you finding Bluesfest? It’s your first time here.
Lydia Rogers: Yeah, it’s our first time here and it looks like it’s going to be a really great day, we just got here about an hour ago so I’m interested to see everybody.
Laura Rogers: This is our first festival of our summer. I know it isn’t summer here any more, but we’re spending the rest of the summer in the States at least, doin’ all the festivals and this is kind of our kickoff outdoor thingy, so we’re excited.
KT: And actually,you have a good year because it’s not raining ridiculously.
Laura: I know! I hear it’s always raining!
KT: We were saying before, in Australia, we love festivals and we do them all year round because we have the climate for it. So you’ve got a lot of festivals going on back home?

Laura: Well, yeah, in the States we do, and then also we’re headin’ to all the major European festivals. We got a busy year ahead, but that’s alright! [laughs]

KT: Now, you’ve got two sets at Bluesfest, what can audiences expect?
Lydia: We always include a few originals and definitely lots of covers. We do lots of Willie Nelson and Patsy Cline and we do about an hour set.
Laura: Honestly, we do a long set when we’re not opening for someone, when we do our own kind of gig we really like to make the audience feel like they’re just sittin’ in our living room, listening to us play songs that we grew up singing and so that’s a lot of what the audience can expect. It will be just casual, really easy goin’.
KT: Have the stage manager bring out a couch or two for everyone?
Laura: Yeah! We’ll pass around coffee and tea, it’ll be cosy!

KT: So you’ve never been to Australia before?
Both: No, never!
Laura: Lovin’ it!
Lydia: It’s my favourite place we’ve ever visited, honestly.
Laura: The weather is wonderful, the beaches are incredible, I just feel like I’m on a vacation the whole time. I’m like “Oh yeah, I have to sing today, whoops! I forgot!”
Lydia: And the people are very laid back and easy going too, so it’s been very welcoming here.
Laura: It reminds me of what America would be if everybody would just chill out and if we had better beaches. I feel really at home here, I don’t know why, but I guess I’ll just have to come back.

KT: How long do you get to spend here?
Lydia: We are leaving Wednesday, we got here last Monday.
Laura: So we had about ten days which was really, I think, a good introduction. We spent time in Sydney and then in Melbourne and then Wollongong and here, so it’s, y’know I think we’re getting a good taste of what Australia is. We haven’t ventured in to the outback yet, I don’t know if that’s gonna happen [laughs], I wanna stick close to the beaches!
KT: How did you find the reception at your other Australian gigs?
Lydia: It’s been pretty massive actually. We opened for Elvis Costello a couple of times and really, everybody has been so great. I mean, we’ve sold a tonne of merch and people seem to be really in to it.
Laura: We also performed on Adam Hills in Gordon Street Tonight and that gave us a really good response. We had loads of people signing on to our facebook and writing things, and people at the shows coming up and saying “Oh, I saw you on Adam Hills and you were incredible”, so all the promo is really accomplishing what we want it to. Everything’s good about Australia!
KT: So you’ll be back?
Lydia: Absolutely!
Laura: Oh probably [laughs] it’s funny, the other day I was like, first of all, I want a summer home here, second of all, when’s the next tour to Australia, ’cause I’m ready! [laughs]
KT: I’m sure we could adopt you.
Laura: Oh, ok!

Bluesfest MondayLydia performing at Bluesfest

KT: So the two of you are from Alabama there must be a huge, diverse range of influences and inspirations there. How does that affect your music?
Lydia: Well, we grew up, it’s the bible belt of America. We were really influenced by our church and I always tell people, we didn’t have any musical instruments in our church. So, we had to learn how to read music and harmonise with each other and that’s a lot of where our sound comes from. Church, and our family, is very musical, every year we get together and play music. We have reunions, it’s called the Parker Pigout! [laughs] And we all get together and take turns playing songs and it’s just something we’ve always done, it’s just the norm for us.
Laura: Think southern America as a whole, not event just our little bubble that we’re in, but as a whole, Southern music is just so diverse. I mean, you’ve got rock n roll in Memphis, you’ve got blues from Louisiana and the delta, you’ve got country music from Nashville and all of it just sort of swirls together to create this really fertile area that music, any kind of music really can thrive there and I think that’s a lot of the reason why we do have so many influences, we’re not just straight country or straight pop or rock. We’re just kind of an amalgamation of everything and I love it! [laughs] And I like that this festival is that way, ’cause when they said Bluesfest, I was like “we’re not blues!” but then again, a lot of artists here aren’t and I love that that’s so ok here.
KT: Timber and Steel mainly focus on folk but the funniest thing about folk is that actually it kind of covers all of those genres
Lydia: Yeah, it does! It’s kind of one of those places that you put yourself when you don’t know what you are.
Laura: Sometimes, not all the time, Maybe Americana becomes a little bit of a catch-all as well, people say “What kind of music do you guys play?” and we can’t just say country, ’cause then they think Taylor Swift or Carrie Underwood or Lady Antebellum, just Nashville country, and we’re really not in that vein, I don’t think. But, we just like to call it ‘Good Music’. [laughs]

KT: So you’ve had a couple of different types of gig here, obviously touring and the festivals, do you prefer the smaller intimate gigs or the big festivals?
Lydia: I like both, both have redeeming qualities but I really like the theatre setting. We were fortunate to play at the Palais in Melbourne and the State Theatre in Sydney and both of those, the acoustics in there were just great, and people sit down and it’s just a very respectful audience. And I think that’s the kind of audience that we like. I mean, we like all audiences! [laughs]
Laura: I think we’re most at home in those places, but of course, y’know, the only reason we’ve gotten to play those is because we’ve been opening acts. In Europe we were an opening act for a fellow named Ray LaMontagne and we were there with him and got to play in all these really great theatres. But, I mean, if we could pick any kind of venue, that would be the one, but we also do love festivals just because it’s so laid back and you get to be outside and you can be exposed to ridiculously huge crowds, which is wonderful.
KT: And crowds that may not have known they even like you
Laura: Yeah, exactly.
Lydia: They could just be walking by and hear one song.
Laura: You just stumble across it at the festival setting, where as if you go to a theatre, you’re there because you know it’s good. Every bit of it is fun, the thing is it’s different at each place, but it’s always good.

KT: So obviously you’ve got all the festivals at home to do next, what can we expect to hear from you in the next 12 – 18 months?
Laura: Oh boy!
Lydia: You can expect a lot of touring from us, we are headed straight home after this to play a few festivals and then we’re going straight to Europe for a two week tour and then we have another tour of the US, so lots of touring and definitely lots of writing and by the end of this year we’re hoping to record the next record, so, lot’s going on.
Laura: Yeah, we’re excited about that next record. I think it’s funny ’cause once you record an album, you have to live with that album for a long time, so we’ve been living with these songs for almost a year now because the album is technically about a year old as far as how long it’s been recorded, but the world has only heard it for a few months, so we’re kind of getting to the point were we’re like “Ok, new songs please!” [laughs] But it’s fun!

KT: Has Australia inspired you at all? Have you been writing while you’ve been here?
Laura: Yeah!
Lydia: We wrote a song last night!
KT: Really? Do we get to hear it?
Laura: Maybe tomorrow, there’s a good possibility for tomorrow. Today is a little…
Lydia: It still needs to be worked on a little bit
Laura: Our confidence needs to build within the song, but we were stayin’ in our hotel last night, and we’ve got a great view of, I don’t know what, it’s umm, like a harbour kind of thing
Lydia: The Gold Coast
Laura:It’s beautiful, we were out on the balcony and it was warm and breezy and we’d just had a great dinner so we wrote a song! And now that song will forever more be dedicated to Australia [laughs]
KT: Fantastic! Well, we all look forward to you dedicating it to us every time!
Lydia: [laughs] Yes, we’ll just call it ‘Australia’
Laura: Even though it’s about Alabama!
Lydia: It has nothing to do with Australia, but it’s going to be called Australia
Laura: We could always change the hook to like “going home ’cause Australia is my home.” Well, we could pretend like it is.
KT: Or you’re just sick of Australia and you want to go home?
Laura: Oh, no, no! Honestly, I don’t wanna leave! I’m kinda bummed that we have to go to Europe in a week, I’m like “Oh, they don’t have beaches.”

KT: Have a great time, really happy to spend some time with you and looking forward to everything coming from you over the next few months.
Both: Thank you, so much!

The Secret Sisters Announce Single Solo Show

The Secret Sisters
Image Courtesy of The Secret Sisters

If you’re lucky enough to be heading to Byron Bay for this year’s Bluesfest one band you should really make tome to see is Alabama-born singing duo, The Secret Sisters. Laura and Lydia Rogers, aka The Secret Sisters, have carved out a particular niche for themselves in the folk spectrum singing 1940s and 50s inspired country music, complete with impeccable harmonies.

If you’re still not convinced the duo are up your alley maybe it’s worth taking into consideration that they’ve been hand picked to support Elvis Costello on his Bluesfest sideshows. Has that got your attention?

Outside of Bluesfest and the Elvis Costello supports The Secret Sisters have only scheduled one headline show on Wednesday 20th April at The Vanguard in Sydney. Make sure you head down if you want to catch these unique talents.

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